Schools' funding campaign latest: Minister Nick Gibb and council chief respond to us - The Solihull Observer

Schools' funding campaign latest: Minister Nick Gibb and council chief respond to us

Solihull Editorial 3rd Nov, 2017   0

A CAMPAIGN for more funding for Solihull schools should focus on taking more money from schools in other urban areas, rather than fighting for more money for all schools, says the borough’s education chief Ken Meeson.

It came as the government’s Department for Education contacted this newspaper over our recent coverage, to insist its funding changes meant a 6.9 per cent rise for Solihull’s schools of almost £10million until 2020.

Solihull council’s cabinet member for education, councillor Meeson, made his remarks in a letter to this newspaper following our stories in the last fortnight of a growing campaign by some parents, teachers and governors for ‘fair funding for all’ schools after 2020.

We highlighted how some teachers complained to Solihull councillors that money was so tight they had to buy their own pencils, glue for books, and second-hand library books from charity shops.




Other examples given by the protesting teachers were that a Maths book dated 1978 asked students to calculate how many cigarettes a woman smoked, and that Newly Qualified Teachers were being diverted into teaching specialist subjects they knew little or nothing about.

The Fair Funding for Solihull Schools campaign is calling for all schools’ per-pupil funding to be protected in real-terms (in line with inflation) across the country for the long-term, after 2020.


The campaign, backed by opposition councillors, accuses the two Solihull borough Conservtive MPs Dame Caroline Spelman and Julian Knight, and Conservative councillors, of giving up the fight after £1.3billion extra for schools up to 2020 was announced by the government in July.

The extra cash was not new money for education but taken from a raid elsewhere on the government’s Department for Education budget, a position the Independent Institute for Fiscal Studies warned fell short of long-term funding to meet schools’ rising costs and pupil rolls.

As reported on our front page last week, the two MPs fell short of backing the campaign’s call when challenged by us, but pledged to continue their own fight for fair funding for schools.

Both MPs maintained the extra cash has protected real-terms spending for Solihull schools, following a long-campaign by the borough’s MPs and Solihull council.

Coun Meeson’s letter (published in full on our letters page this week, see page 10) controversially argues the campaign for a larger slice of government funding for all schools for the long-term could result in more disproportionate funding for schools in urban areas.

It states: “Solihull council and both MPs have been campaigning for years to obtain fair treatment for our schools and remove the historic unfairness under which funding is allocated.

“Given that schools in some areas receive such high funding they can afford to pay Heads more than the Prime Minister, build up massive reserves and supply pupils with the latest technology, our responsibility is to challenge a system under which our schools are at the bottom of the pile and struggle to make ends meet.

“An increase in the national pot might be welcome but as noted by the Schools Forum, could make the best-funded schools even better off and have only a marginal effect in Solihull and further widen the gap unless we secure fundamental change to historic distribution arrangements.

“At last, with the help of our MPs we have achieved some movement from government and it is disappointing that the ‘Fair Funding for Solihull’ group seems to dismisses the over £9.3million extra allocated to our schools in the recent announcement.”

As we have reported, parents behind the Fair Funding for Solihull Schools campaign such as mother-of-two and former teacher Claire Melia say schools across the country need more money to prevent an unhealthy competition between schools and areas of the country over an inadequate funding pot.

Councillor Max McLoughlin of the opposition Green Party, which last month called on the Conservative-run council and MPs to lobby the government to protect real-terms funding for schools beyond 2020, has also written a letter in this week’s Solihull Observer.

MINISTER RESPONDS

The government’s Department for Education has contacted this newspaper with a statement from Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb.

He said: “The fact is that under this government, there are 1.8m more children being taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

“There are no cuts in funding – every school will see an increase in funding through the formula from 2018. Schools’ funding is driven by pupil numbers and, as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.

“As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed, overall schools funding is being protected at a national level in real terms per pupil over the next two years. At the same time, our historic reform of the school funding system – backed by an additional £1.3bn of extra funding – will replace the current postcode lottery which has created hugely unfair differences in funding between similar schools in different parts of the country.

“Our new formula will allocate a cash increase of at least 1% per pupil to every school by 2019-20, with much higher gains for underfunded schools.”

The DfE added: “We will be spending £2.6 billion more on schools by 2019-20 than we are today. Spending plans beyond 2019-20 will be set in a future Spending Review. Naturally, we cannot pre-empt the decisions that will be taken in future Spending Reviews.

“By way of context, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has shown that per pupil spending in schools in 2020 is set to be at least 70 per cent higher in real terms than it was in 1990.”

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